Utah, Union Pacific reach deal: Clean switcher engine bill put on hold

An engine on the Union Pacific Roper yard in South Salt Lake is pictured on Feb. 22. Utah lawmakers and Union Pacific seem like working by some contentious points, legislators say. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Information)

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SALT LAKE CITY — It seems the railroad large Union Pacific and Utah lawmakers are taking part in good once more.

After a dust-up final week — when a Home legislative chief accused Union Pacific of being an unwilling and uncooperative accomplice in air high quality efforts and fast-tracked a invoice to pressure the corporate to maneuver to cleaner switchers by 2028 — the identical legislator is pushing pause on the invoice.

Home Majority Chief Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, requested the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Vitality, and Expertise Committee to carry HB405 on Tuesday, citing now “productive” conversations with Union Pacific.

He learn a letter during which Union Pacific pledged to take away three of its 40 “tier 0” switchers, or railroad locomotives used to maneuver rail vehicles inside a rail yard, from the Roper Rail Yard in Salt Lake Metropolis by the center of the yr. The corporate mentioned it will change them with 4 “tier 2” locomotives, which is able to assist scale back air pollution within the space, Schultz mentioned.

Union Pacific has additionally “agreed to work” with lawmakers and “enter right into a partnership” to convey “tier 4” or cleaner locomotive switcher know-how for the Roper Rail Yard, Schultz mentioned. Moreover, the corporate has “expressed willingness” to check some new electrical know-how in container motion know-how “over the following yr or two.”

“We’ll must work out what these particulars are, however my understanding is there is a chunk of cash from the federal authorities that might assist offset that so the price to the state should not be too important,” Schultz informed the Senate committee.

Schultz’s request to carry the invoice relieves the strain on Union Pacific. HB405, which the Utah Home authorised with none dissenting votes, would have required rail yards which have 4 or extra switchers to energy these switchers “wholly by a hydrogen gas cell or electrical energy” by no later than Jan. 1, 2028.

The invoice particularly focused Union Pacific’s Roper Rail Yard, which has “produced sufficient emissions that’s primarily equal to I-15 at rush hour” due to its over 40 switchers that use decades-old, “tier 0” know-how, College of Utah atmospheric scientist Dr. Daniel Mendoza informed lawmakers in a committee listening to final week.

Union Pacific is likely one of the largest “level sources” or highest concentrated sources of air pollution in Salt Lake County, Mendoza mentioned, noting that these switchers must idle 24/7 in winter months to forestall the engine blocks from freezing or cracking.

Schultz took goal at Union Pacific, criticizing the corporate for seeing its largest revenue yr in 2021 — raking in $6.5 billion — whereas making an attempt new know-how for freight switchers in different states like California and Nebraska however not Utah, though elements of the state stay nonattainment areas below the EPA.

Schultz mentioned for years Utah lawmakers together with Rep. Steve Helpful, R-Layton, have tried to work with Union Pacific for years, however conversations have amounted to nothing.

He additionally mentioned the corporate tried to strong-arm him this yr, telling him if he did not drop considered one of his different payments (HB181, which he mentioned seeks to forestall Union Pacific from “holding hostage” widening of roads round railroad crossings by refusing to pay for upkeep of these crossings), “that they’d not transfer ahead on these discussions with reference to freight switchers and a number of the different considerations within the state.”

“And so I’m fairly disheartened, actually, about their willingness to interact on this,” Schultz mentioned final week.

However Tuesday, Schultz indicated the strain between himself and Union Pacific has eased.

“I simply need to thank Union Pacific for having these discussions and making the commitments they’ve made up to now,” he mentioned. “We stay up for having these discussions and getting into into some contracts over the interim to scale back the emissions that is coming from the Roper Rail yard.”

Schultz then requested the Senate committee to carry the invoice.

“If we have to proceed speaking about it throughout interim we positive can, however I like the place it is going,” he mentioned. “I feel Union Pacific’s willingness to have an trustworthy, open dialogue and work collectively to deal with the considerations, I feel is finest for the state.”

Sen. Jake Anderegg, R-Lehi, thanked the corporate for its cooperation.

“My expertise with Union Pacific is it is taken some time, however you guys have change into rather more engaged and energetic in working by issues,” Anderegg mentioned. “I additionally perceive these switchers are tremendous costly items of apparatus, and it is actually onerous to transition. So the willingness to take action, understanding that it’ll be an expense to you guys, is sort of actually an excellent present of religion in your facet.”

The committee adjourned with out taking motion on the invoice, successfully abandoning it for the 2022 Legislative session that ends on Friday at midnight.

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